Healthy Ovaries after Childhood Cancer

Healthy Ovaries after Childhood Cancer

Children’s bodies are amazing! They are capable of so much regeneration and renewal. Today when kids have cancer, often the treatment includes both radiation and multiple chemotherapeutic agents. The survival rates are now so good, that people are now looking into the long-term effects of these toxic exposures – especially on the sensitive reproductive organs.

Encouragingly, about 94% of young adult women who had been treated for childhood cancer still have working ovaries, according to a study from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center that appeared in the May 2006 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

This is good news in three ways. First, for all kids, it shows how resilient children’s bodies can be to even the most toxic exposures. Second, for girls with cancer, it suggests a bright outlook for the future. Third, the study helped define which girls were most likely to lose fertility: most of those whose ovaries failed had received radiation directly to the ovaries. Exposure to the chemotherapeutic drugs procarbazine or cyclophosphamide between ages of 13 and 20 years also raised the risk of infertility.

For girls who fit into these categories, it might be wise to consider some of the new or experimental techniques for preserving fertility while undergoing cancer treatment. But any way you look at it, the 94% rate of healthy, functioning ovaries after childhood cancer treatment is good news indeed.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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